For this week’s double take, I didn’t watch two horror movies. My buddy Scott Reynolds instead suggested on doing a double feature of DANGEROUS MEN, paired up with DEADLY PREY and insisted that this toxic combination of cinematic madness would absolutely blow my mind in the same way that some of my recent genre discoveries have. And he was right. There is some PIECES level greatness held within the frames of these two cult classics, both of which I’d never previously seen, nor heard of! Let’s do the rundown of the action packed lunacy.
DANGEROUS MEN is a recent Drafthouse Films release. Or better yet, it’s a movie that they’ve finally properly unleashed onto the world. It began production in 1979 under the direction of filmmaker Jahangir Salehi, who goes by the name John S. Rad. You’ll see his name come up in the opening credits at least a dozen times. As writer, director, producer, editor, production designer and yes, even composer! It turns out that the final product took 26 years to complete and only played in 4 theaters. So in that sense, it truly is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
With a title like DANGEROUS MEN, I was expecting maybe a gritty crime drama about a pair of cops on a quest for revenge against a bunch of bikers or something. But instead, I think the title refers to all men! Basically, there’s a young couple in love, a man and his fiancé (that’s honestly her credit in the movie, she doesn’t have a name) that are planning on getting married. One beautiful afternoon, the two are enjoying a lovely, peaceful day at the beach when two no-good bored bikers follow them and decide to have a little fun. It doesn’t look good for the couple as they try to take advantage of the poor bride-to-be. Her fiancé valiantly fights off one of the bikers and kills him in the scuffle, which causes biker number 2 to stab the man to death because “you killed my only friend!” Mere moments after losing her future husband to a heinous crime, she immediately hooks up with the remaining biker because she wants to be with a real man.
At a cheap motel that night, once they’re about to get it on, the girl pulls a knife out of her butt and murders the shit out of that biker. She was just leading him on so she could put herself in this position to get sweet revenge! And that’s just the beginning! After that first murder (and then randomly almost getting sexually abused by a “family” man that picks her up while hitchhiking), she leaves behind her loving father, moves to the city, and becomes a prostitute for the sole purpose of continuing her murder spree!
There’s also the cop brother of the fiancé, not to mention the on-going police investigation. Oh yeah, and the son of the biker from the bar is a bad-ass named “Black Pepper,” (see below) who looks the exact opposite of what you’d expect. It all culminates in a chase, and one of the most bizarre abrupt conclusions in cinematic history, which involves the introduction of a blind girl. Seriously, this movie had so much going on and is so bonkers that my mind couldn’t contain all the madness. The odd score was also strangely catchy and addictive, and while I can’t imagine this being the sort of movie you watch solo to judge on its artistic merit, if you grab a group of like-minded cult cinema lovers to watch it with, you’ll all have a blast like we did.
As if it couldn’t get any weirder, then we put on the Blu-Ray of DEADLY PREY, the 1987 RAMBO “homage” directed by David A. Prior and starring his brother Ted Prior as Mike Danton, a former military man and perfect killing machine that left that life behind to have a normal place in society with his wife. Turns out one of his former superiors, Hogan, is training mercenaries out in the woods as part of a privately funded operation from the evil businessman Michaelson. Their practice targets are random unwilling citizens that they abduct and hunt! One fateful morning, they spot Danton taking out the garbage, stop to ask him for directions and end up taking him. Only problem is, unlike their previous unwilling participants, Danton is damn good at killing people!
His wife Jaimy calls on her dad, a former cop played by Cameron Mitchell, to investigate and find out what happened to Mike. But when he’s not eating worms and hunting rats for food in between taking out random soldiers after him, he manages to hook up with one of his former Vietnam colleagues, who owes him a life debt. He carries on murdering the rest of Hogan’s men with no signs of slowing down, especially after he finds out they kidnapped his wife. And even then, we get some truly unexpected and somewhat mean-spirited twists and turns.
There are moments in which Danton is perfectly set up for an epic action hero one-liner and just kind of says something that doesn’t land. For example, he jumps a guy, holds up a knife to his face and just says, “you’re dead,” before waiting a long beat and then stabbing him. That aside, the final shot of the movie is pretty epic and almost makes up for everything before it.
I will say this about DEADLY PREY. The movie moves! There is not a single lull from the opening to the end of its 88 minute running time. It’s just a shame that the presentation isn’t better. The Blu-Ray was put out by Olive Films, who usually do a stellar job with releasing old cult movies. However, there is a warning on their website stating that “Deadly Prey is presented using the best available elements provided by Slasher // Video. Not sourced from an HD Master; remastered from PAL Beta SP and upconverted to BluRay and DVD specifications.” So it looks like a VHS recording, but I guess that kind of adds to the charm!
Also, I was shocked to discover that this wasn’t the end of Mike Danton. The entire gang involved in DEADLY PREY returned for a sequel in 2013 called DEADLIEST PREY, but it’s really tough to recapture the odd, quirky charm of the movie that ended up finding cult status. And judging from the trailer to the sequel, it tries a bit too hard to emulate what the first one already did perfectly, whether intentional or not.
Regardless, if “horror” to you is having your mind completely toyed and messed with, I can think of no better way to accomplish that than with a double feature of DANGEROUS MEN with DEADLY PREY. It’s a one of a kind double bill!